One of the great things about France is that it is not raked. On any bike ride, or walk along that overgrown path that started so beautifully, you might just run into a ruin. One of those ruins that we here in the Netherlands would soon turn into an attraction, if we had not long since demolished the piece of unmanaged real estate to make way for a boutique hotel.
So not with those French. Over the past centuries, or rather millennia, they have plastered their country so full of immovable heritage that there is no way to preserve it, restore it or otherwise put it to good use. That they sometimes fail to pay attention is forgivable. Like when that Dutch prince came to his Orange to demolish the local, nicely preserved Roman ruins. He needed the stones for his city wall.
An opinion without news
This pragmatic and economically profit-driven approach to Dutch heritage policy was published on Monday, 18 December an opinion. You may not have noticed, because the opinion contains no real news. At least: the Council for Culture and the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure have jointly formulated a response to the previous culture minister's request for a letter opinion on the future of our immovable heritage. Think: churches, old farms, mounds, stream landscapes, weaver's stalls and cast-iron factory halls.
Very briefly, the advice in the letter is that nothing needs to change. We are doing quite well with our heritage. Of course, there are a few things to watch out for. Such as the voice of the people, which sometimes has its very own views on monuments, as recently demonstrated in the haggling over the Mussert wall in Lunteren. There are also new problems, such as the hassle surrounding buildings or places that were once praised for their grandeur, but where the question is now asked on whose back that grandeur came about. Something that plays out especially with the relatives of enslaved people from our rich colonial history.
We are all going to tell stories
The word 'storytelling' on. And not once, but a hundred times. Indeed, the council is toying with the idea of focusing policy less on bricks and more on stories. Sometimes a place only acquires meaning through the stories that can be told about it, and even more often a story is all that remains of a place, such as the former concentration camp on the edge of the dunes near Schoorl.
In our small country, space is limited. We can't leave a lot of acres vacant because something happened there once. These can also be farm ditches; it does not necessarily have to be a guilty landscape. If a financial saviour does not present itself immediately, the demolition hammer usually awaits and at best a plaque remains.
Stories should make the difference there. According to the Council, and this is actually the nicest hidden gem in this advice, in the shrinkage areas on the edge of the Netherlands we may well just let things fall into ruin. Not cleaning up, in other words. So that that ruin continues to evoke the story. So that we get a bit of France in the Netherlands.
Again, this will probably not refer to Slochteren and its surroundings, where the monumental heritage is now being sacrificed very quickly to our need for gas. But that, of course, is another story.
Or not? You may say.
Read the entire opinion here. (if you can)